Drones will hunt for human cries: there’s a reason

New drones have been developed that can detect impulsive sounds such as claps and screams. The purpose is to rescue victims of accidents or other emergencies

Since their invention, drones have been viewed with suspicion by some people because of their strange appearance that makes them look like bloody robots seen in science fiction movies. With a new announcement from scientists, now, these flying machines will be even more reminiscent of a dystopian "Terminator" or "Quiet Place"-style movie. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics in Germany, in fact, have programmed their drones to hunt for human cries.

It is, however, an invention for good: the drones will help rescuers quickly find trapped or injured people in emergency situations.

How Drones Are Made to Hunt for Human Cries

Researcher Macarena Varela, in an interview with Mashable, explained that she and her research team had already developed a similar system in 2018, but it was too big and heavy to mount on a drone:  "We mounted microphones with an innovative system called 'crow's nest,' where all the microphones are randomly placed in a sphere. This particular configuration provides sound coverage in every direction."

The researchers then use the 'monopulse radar' technique to determine the exact angle of the sound. This technique compares at least two simultaneous beams received from slightly different directions, determining which signal is stronger for detecting the location of a target.

How the new drones that will search for impulsive sounds work

The research team is experimenting with different detection methods to pick up the sound of people in distress, including artificial intelligence and neural networks. For both purposes, Fraunhofer FKIE researchers are using an audio database that includes "impulsive sounds.... that victims can produce, such as tapping, clapping, and screaming."

In lab tests, explained the researcher leading the team, "we were able to detect impulsive sounds, such as clapping. We are currently processing the data with the drone in flight."

However, it may be some time before we see this system in action. Testing is still ongoing and one of the biggest challenges is cancelling out the drone's noise during flight but it's only a matter of time before drones can go after emergency victims and save lives.

Armando Mercuri